5 Barre Moves That’ll Get You Long And Lean

Most people aren’t sure of whether or not barre is actually a good workout. With lofty promises (“Tone up, slim down!”) and isometric movements sometimes invisible to the eye (“Is this actually doing anything?”), it’s all too easy to pass over the low-impact studio workout for something you know will make you sweat, like a run in the summer heat.

But that’s a mistake. Performed correctly and with proper form, barre’s ballet-inspired moves will challenge your entire body, firing up your under-used muscles, recruiting your core, and giving you that long and lean look.

In fact, Becca Lucas, the owner of Barre & Anchor, a barre studio in Weston, MA, says barre-goers can expect a more toned body, improved posture, increased flexibility, improved range of motion, and muscle endurance.

Related: Don’t Let Barre Fool You—It Is NOT For Lightweights

Don’t believe us? Next time you feel like switching up your workout, try Lucas’ five favorite (and seriously challenging) moves. Common exercises in any barre studio class, they promise to have you feeling the burn—and reaping the results—in no time.

Note: To complete these moves, you will need a sturdy piece of furniture and a mat.

1. Forearm Plank

Come down to the floor or a mat on your forearms. Elbows should be under the shoulders and feet should be hip-width apart and parallel. Hips and shoulders should be in a straight line, chin off the chest, and the core pulled up and in. Hold in stillness 30 seconds. Alternate bending the knees 30 seconds (keeping the hips still). Hold in stillness 30 seconds.

2. High V

Holding onto a chair or counter, bring your heels together and toes apart in a narrow ‘V’. Rise up to your tip toes, glue the heels together, bend your knees and sink down toward knee level. Move down an inch and up an inch for 30 seconds.

Pulse down for 30 seconds. Hold for 10 seconds. “Keep shoulders relaxed away from the ears and your shoulders stacked over your hips,” says Lucas.

3. Extension Parallel

Holding onto a chair or the counter, bring your feet hip-width apart and parallel, extend the right leg out in front of you straight with a pointed toe (make sure your knee is facing the ceiling). Soften the standing knee and keep the core tight. Draw dime-sized circles for 30 seconds. Reverse direction for 30 seconds. Lift up 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. “Think length before height. Neck and shoulders stay relaxed,” says Lucas.

Related: Shop protein products to fuel your next workout.

4. Round Back

Lie on the floor or a mat and prop yourself up onto your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders. Palms should be flat on the floor. Raise your legs up over your hips and bring them into a diamond position with your toes together. Keeping your core pulled in, lower your legs to your point of control. Squeeze your knees together then open back into a diamond position 30 seconds. Repeat twice. “Try and keep your lower back on the floor or mat at all times,” says Lucas.

5. Standing Turnout

Hold onto a steady piece of furniture about elbows-distance away. Bring your heels together, toes apart. Extend your right leg back on the diagonal straight with a pointed toe. Soften the standing knee and pull the abs in. “Right knee is turned slightly to the right, leg should be behind the hip, chest lifted,” says Lucas. Lift the leg up an inch, down an inch 30 seconds. Lift to the tempo 30 seconds. Hold at the top, rise to your tip toes, and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

6 Gym Machines People Get All Wrong

Use your favorite fitness machine the right way, and you’ll see the gains and make progress toward your goals. Use them the wrong way, and you’ll see fewer results, or worse: put yourself at risk for serious injury.

We talked to top trainers to get the low-down on what we’re doing wrong, and how to clean up our acts.

1. The Pull-Down Machine

Still using the pull-down machine to pull behind your neck? “For years, studies have shown that this position strains not only the shoulders but the neck as well,” says Scott Weiss, C.S.C.S., co-founder and director of rehabilitation and sports therapy services at Bodhizone for Human Performance. This is especially true if you don’t have good flexibility in your shoulder area, he notes.

The fix: Pull the bar down to your chest (not behind your neck) with a 30- to 45-degree lean back, he suggests. “This not only works the same muscle more effectively, but won’t put you at risk of injury.”

2. The Leg Press

The leg press is tricky; on one hand it’s an amazing tool for strengthening your lower body, but it’s also all-too-often used incorrectly. One big mistake we make: starting from the wrong position, says Weiss. “Exercisers start with their knees in too much flexion, which can cause wear and tear to cartilage.” Overloading the press can also limit your range of motion (and results), setting you up for injury, adds Tom Holland, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym.

The fix: Remember the 90-degree position, says Weiss. Set the machine up so that your knees and hips are at 90 degrees, no further or closer. “This will ensure good form and longevity to the knees,” he says. Then, use lighter weights and slow your repetitions. You want to be able to reach a full range of motion.

3. Smith’s Machine

A squat is meant to use the hamstrings, glutes, and quads—in that order, says Devan Kline, the CEO and co-founder of Burn Boot Camp. But when you use Smith’s Machine, it’s possible that you shift the hips, which means your lower back and patella tendons (around your knees) can really take a beating, he notes. “You’re putting yourself at risk for long-term damage on this piece of equipment.”

The fix: Go for free weights and a normal squat in a squat rack, instead. “This will force your body to balance the weight while performing the squat, rather than getting assistance from a fixed range of motion,” says Kline. “The natural checks and balances of gravity, more often than not, will promote healthy form and make for stronger and leaner legs.”

4. The Back Extension

“It is common to see people hyper-extending their bodies when using the 45-degree back extension machine, placing unnecessary stress on the lower back,” says Holland.

The fix: Stop the extension exactly when your body forms a straight line, he says. Pause and hold for one second, then slowly lower back down.

5. The Preacher Curl

This machine can certainly isolate the biceps, but a few mistakes (such as using too much weight), can potentially wreak havoc on your shoulders, says Weiss. Form check: If your butt comes off the seat and your shoulders elevate and migrate forward while performing your sets, your weight is too heavy. Weiss adds that an incorrect form here can cause rotator cuff injuries and impingement (tendons rubbing against your shoulder blade).

The fix: Elevate the seat a bit and cut back on the weight so that you’re staying in proper form. “This in addition to keeping the armpits glued to the bench helps maintain proper mechanics,” Weiss says.

6. The Stair-Stepper

Trainers literally cringe when people set the stair-stepper way too high, drape their bodies over the displays and handrails, or take short, staggered steps, explains Holland. In fact, “This turns it into more of an upper-body exercise and decreases the number of calories burned.”

The fix: Set the machine to a lower speed, touch the handrails lightly for balance (don’t depend on the rails), and push the pedals through their full range of motion, not skimping on any step, he suggests.

What Exactly Is Rhabdo—And Are You At Risk?

You may have been hearing some—okay, a lot—of noise about something called exertional rhabdomyolysis (or rhabdo, as it’s colloquially known in the fitness industry). In fact, a recent New York Times article detailed the story of a woman who, post-spin class, came down with the life-threatening health condition brought on by extreme exercise.

Although uncommon, rhabdo is real. So in the age of HIIT and other fast-paced classes, should you be worried? And how much is too much exercise?

What EXACTLY is rhabdo?

Rhabdo is a condition in which there’s a rapid breakdown of muscle tissue, resulting in the death of muscle fibers that wind up leaking into the blood stream, explains Michele Olson, Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M., and adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL.

Normally, your kidneys, which process and remove waste through urine, would take care of those leaking muscle fibers. But with rhabdo, the kidneys can’t handle the amount of damage, Olson says, and eventually (if not treated), they shut down.

That’s why you want to catch symptoms quickly. Rhabdo can lead to a very dangerous situation: People may experience kidney failure, electrolyte disturbances, cardiac arrhythmia, and even death.

Rhabdo is considered pretty rare, with about 26,000 cases per year occurring in the United States. (That may sound high, but a disease is considered ‘rare’ if it affects less than 200,000 people per year.)

How do you get rhabdo?

“Exertional rhabdomyolysis is the term used when rhabdomyolysis is associated to physical activity,” explains Gerardo Miranda-Comas, M.D., an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

With this kind of rhabdo, the activities that cause the most muscle damage are the most likely to cause a problem, says Olson. “This includes ultra-endurance events such as marathons and heavy-intense weight lifting.”

And while healthy people who follow their training plans to a tee can unfortunately succumb to rhabdo, often it’s people who don’t properly build up to endurance exercise or heavy lifting who suffer, says Olson.

Related: Shop immune-boosting supplements.

Other kinds of rhabdo are caused by underlying medical conditions (think: diabetes, thyroid disease, chronic electrolyte disorders, or acidosis); medications (stimulants, antihistamines, and statin drugs), and illicit drugs can also put people at risk, notes Miranda-Comas.

Also: Anyone who’s damaged their muscles—whether it’s from a car accident or a dangerous infection—can experience rhabdo, notes Olson. So it’s not exclusive to your spin or HIIT class—you don’t have to cancel your membership!

What are the symptoms?

If you’re suffering from rhabdo, you might feel weak and have trouble with ‘normal’ movements, notes Olson. Pain in the shoulders, upper back, and thighs is also common, as is confusion, or vomiting, she says.

“Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—muscle soreness that occurs one to three days after an intense bout of exercise—is considered a mild form of rhabdomyolysis,” says Miranda-Comas. “So persistent soreness is an early sign and should be evaluated.”

Dark red or brown urine—which could mean there is blood and degraded protein (from destroyed muscle fibers)—can also be a sign of rhabdo, notes Olson.

Unfortunately, not all cases (or symptoms) look the same, so it can be difficult to diagnose. Miranda-Comas notes that symptoms can vary from no soreness to mild soreness or extreme muscle tightness and pain with weakness and extreme difficulty moving.

Related: I Won’t Let My Thyroid Disease Stop Me From Staying Fit

Adds Olson: “A person may have all or very few of the symptoms—which is why rhabdo is clearly dangerous and can harm an unsuspecting exerciser.”

If you think you’ve got rhabdo, it’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately, both experts say. Miranda-Comas notes that hydration is the standard form of treatment, but severe forms may require dialysis or surgery.

How can you best prevent getting rhabdo from exercising?

Your best bet is to stay safe with exercise (regardless of rhabdo, but also because of it), and take things slow. “Build up gradually,” says Miranda-Comas.

Remember, endurance training should be a gradual progression, with no more than a 10 percent increase in volume weekly, he says. That means if you’re trying to build up mileage when running (let’s say you’re doing 10 miles a week), you should only do 11 miles the next week.

Rest days are crucial, too. The average exerciser shouldn’t be doing high-intensity training on consecutive days, notes Miranda-Comas.

The bottom line? “Do not ever jump into something intense if you haven’t been exercising, have been sick, have experienced a break from exercise due to vacation, or have a chronic medical illness.”

Don’t Let Barre Fool You—It Is NOT For Lightweights

With so many boutique studio fitness classes out there, gym-goers have more options than ever—from the mega-popular (spin and bootcamp) to the more experimental (aerial yoga and aqua cycling).

One non-traditional exercise approach you may not have considered because it may come across as too “fancy”:  barre, a studio workout that incorporates ballet-inspired exercises, bodyweight moves, and—yep—a bar.

For the record, barre is not for lightweights. We touched base with Becca Lucas, the owner of Barre & Anchor, a barre studio in Weston, MA, to get the basics on barre workouts, and find out what kind of results you can expect from them.

What Exactly Is Barre?

This trendy class blends ballet-based exercises (think: tiny, isometric movements, like plies), yoga, pilates, and core work, requiring you to use your own body weight to create resistance, which increases endurance and stamina, explains Lucas.

Related: How To Make 5 Basic Bodyweight Exercises SO Much Harder

The exercises are lower-impact (read: fewer knee or back troubles here) and apply little stress to the joints. Better yet, while you might feel like a ballerina at the bar, no prior dance or ballet experience is necessary, she notes.

Expect moves such as planks, push-ups, bicep curls with light weights (these are usually quite light, around two- or three-pounds), and tricep dips. You’ll also perform those burns-so-good thigh exercises, like fold-overs or pretzels for glutes work.

It’s not all about the legs, though: You can expect a section of class to focus on the abdominals and back, as well. Classes finish with a cool-down stretch, helping you rest and lengthen the muscles.

Related: Shop energy-boosting products to kick your next workout into gear.

What Are The Benefits?

Expect to gain a toned body, improved posture, increased flexibility, improved range of motion, and muscle endurance, Lucas says.

Look at a barre class from a distance and you might not notice much movement. But that’s the idea:  “Isometric contractions or movements involve tensing the muscle without changing the length of it,” explains Lucas. “With each isometric movement, you target the tiny muscles that may get ignored if you’re sticking to exercises with larger ranges of motion. By repeating these small movements, you’re able to build up endurance, better balance, and posture.”

Plus, you’re going to really feel the burn. Unlike other fitness classes (such as cycling or HIIT), barre workouts work muscles to fatigue, target each muscle group from all angles, and strengthen unused muscles, says Lucas.

Ever experience ‘the shakes’ when working out? That will happen in barre class: “When your muscles reach the point of fatigue, they start to tremble and shake,” says Lucas. “The shake you experience in barre is unlike anything you will find in other exercise classes.” Embrace it!

Related: How Zumba Helped Me Lose 30 Pounds And Become The Life Of The Party

Another plus: Barre is a total-body workout. Classes incorporate upper body, lower body, and core strength. “Your core is used for at least 80 percent off the entire class, notes Lucas. Good news, considering a stronger core means better posture and less lower back pain.

Who Is Barre For?

You don’t have to be a ClassPass regular or a ballerina to sign up. “Everyone benefits from taking barre,” says Lucas. Anyone looking to improve their posture, lift their seat, shrink their waist, tighten their core, and boost their confidence can reap the rewards.

Plus, it’s a great addition to a workout routine that’s cardio-heavy or one that doesn’t always include core exercises. Says Lucas: “Barre is a lifelong exercise program, suitable for all ages and all levels.” And, we might add, it’s not limited to one gender: Guys, grab a bar and go beast mode!

4 Signs You’re Ready To Bump Up Your Weight

You probably have a favorite group fitness class and a solid (if repetitive) workout routine. But guess what? Getting used to your workout—and your weight level—is a recipe for plateauing. After all, in order to get stronger, gain more endurance, and see those muscles really pop, you have to really challenge them. But how do you know when you’ve maxed out and are ready to move onto something bigger, better, and heavier? Here are four signs.

1. You Can Do 18 Reps

Get to the end of a set of 18 and feel A-Okay? It’s time to increase your weight, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of Sports Science at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL. “Research clearly shows that you need to exhaust the muscles by about 15 reps in order for them to become stronger.”

The right weight should fatigue your muscles in about 12 to 15 reps. And if you’re gassed by rep five? Shave off the amount of pounds hindering you from getting there.

Related: The Hard-Gainer’s Guide To Building Muscle

2. Your Body Weight Indicates You Should

“A general rule of thumb is to use upper body weights that are about 15 percent of your total body weight,” says Olson. So, if you weigh 140 pounds, that’s 21 pounds—or about a 10-pound weight in each hand, she notes. “This is still considered a moderately light weight, so you won’t bulk up, but you will burn calories and develop strength.”

As for your lower body? Consider a weight of about 20 percent your total body weight—that’s about 12-15 pounds for a 140-pound person who’s doing exercises like lunges or squats. If it doesn’t feel like a solid challenge, add more weight until it does.

3. You’re Spending Forever At The Gym

“Serious strength-training enthusiasts know that lifting heavy for five repetitions or less, while extremely challenging, is the quickest way to increase muscle strength,” says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based trainer.

Related: 9 Fitness Instructors Reveal Their Favorite At-Home Exercise Equipment

If you’re using a light weight for ‘toning,’ the only way to improve your muscle definition is to do as many reps as possible until the muscle fatigues, he adds. “That can take too long; using a heavier weight for fewer reps to fatigue is easier.”

4. You’re Never Sore

Can’t remember the last time you actually, truly felt that day-after burn? Might be time to up the ante. You don’t want to be so sore you can’t even walk, but sometimes, soreness is a sign that you’re improving and making real strides in your muscular fitness, says Olson. That’s important because the stronger you are, the less likely you are to get injured, fall, or lose lean body tissue, she says.

Related: Shop protein to give your muscles the strength and power they need.

Should You Be Doing A HIIT Workout?

HIIT workouts—that’s high-intensity interval training—have gotten a lot of buzz for some time now. That’s because you can burn serious calories in a short amount of time (read: buh-bye super-long gym sessions).

The gist: If you go all-out on a particular workout or exercise for 30, 60, or 90 seconds, recover for twice as long, and then move on to the next set (and repeat!), you’ll blast fat, boost endurance, and tone your body. (HIIT workouts often have a 1:2 ratio of work to recovery.)

This kind of high-intensity movement is anything but easy, but that’s the whole idea: You’ll work harder for shorter amounts of time and your work will pay off.

When executed properly, the benefits of HIIT are abundant:

You’ll burn serious amounts of calories.

“It’s like city driving versus highway driving,” says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based personal trainer. “Highway driving is like steady state cardio—you keep the heart rate at a consistent level the entire time; it conserves energy. City driving is HIIT—a lot of starting and stopping uses a lot more gas.”

Alternating between high-intensity work intervals and lower-intensity active recovery intervals burns more calories because accelerating and decelerating is tiring, he explains. “HIIT workouts challenge the cardiorespiratory and circulatory systems to bring oxygen into the body and deliver it to the working muscles,” McCall says. “The body consumes oxygen at a rate of five calories of energy per one liter of oxygen. Any exercise mode that increases the demand and consumption for oxygen can improve overall caloric expenditure.”

Related: Let’s Set The Record Straight About Fasted Cardio

According to the Journal of Obesity, HIIT workouts are not only linked to weight loss, but they produce significant increases in aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

The calorie burn doesn’t stop once you stop moving.

There’s actually a scientific term for it: EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). “It’s when your body continues to burn calories for a period of time, even after your workout is over,” says Holland. And with high-intensity intervals, you get the added benefit of burning calories long after your workout is in the books.

Switching between slow and steady cardio and HIIT adds variety. This is hugely important to any successful exercise routine. Says Holland: “Variation in exercise is not only essential for continued physiological adaptations, but it also has positive psychological benefits as well.”

According to a study published in the journal, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, HIIT has been shown to have positive effects on patients with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. You can kiss all that stress goodbye!

The workouts are short and sweet.

“The number one reason people give for not exercising is lack of time, especially a full hour,” says Tom Holland, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym. “People find it much easier, therefore, to squeeze a quick HIIT workout into their busy lifestyles.”

Most people do a 20-minute HIIT workout, although some people love super-fast workouts, like Tabata.

…And they’re fun, too.

HIIT will certainly kick your butt, but it’s more fun than slogging away on a treadmill. “Most people get bored quickly with doing the same, long, slow cardio workouts,” says Holland. “HIIT sessions provide a welcome change, both mentally as well as physically. You also feel a unique sense of accomplishment when you complete a challenging HIIT session.”

One of the very best things about HIIT, though? You don’t need any equipment to complete a workout, says Holland (as you’ll see below).

Related: 13 Burpees That’ll Blow Your Mind (And Torch Serious Calories)

Is HIIT Right For You?

“Almost anyone can benefit from a HIIT workout,” says McCall. That is, he explains, people without pre-existing medical conditions or orthopedic injuries. (Which means if you have sprains, strains, or muscle tears, or long-term issues like heart disease or high blood pressure, you might want to hold off and talk to your doctor first.)

That’s because, by definition, HIIT is—well—high-intensity. “Therefore, it’s challenging to both the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems,” he says. You don’t want to overdo it out of the gate only to wind up injured, hurt, or worse—in danger.

Related: 3 People Share How They Dropped Over 60 Pounds—And Kept It Off

Want to try your hand at HIIT? Take on one of the below workouts from Holland.

20-Minute Bodyweight HIIT Workout #1

Warm-up:

  • 3 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jacks)

Circuit (repeat five times):

  • 20 seconds of burpees
  • 40 seconds recovery (jog in place)
  • 20 seconds of pop squats
  • 40 seconds recovery (jog in place)
  • 20 seconds of jump lunges
  • 40 seconds recovery (jog in place)

Cool down:

  • 2 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jac

20-Minute Cardio HIIT Workout #2

Warm-up:

  • 5 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jacks)

Circuit (repeat 10 times):

  • 20 seconds all-out sprint
  • 40 seconds walk or jog to recover

Cool down:

  • 5 minutes of easy cardio (run in place or do jumping jacks)

8 Fun Ways To Drink More Water If You Hate Water

Water is a life necessity, there’s no way around it. Up to 60 percent of our bodies are made of H20, after all. But let’s be real: Drinking plain water day after day can be downright boring.

That could be part of the reason why up to 75 percent of the U.S. population is chronically dehydrated, according to Medical Daily. Fortunately, there are fun ways to stay hydrated, and you can start with these eight.

1. Carry An Inspiring Bottle

blender_bottlesThe market is flooded with water bottles for every personality. Picking one up will only set you back a few bucks, and carrying around a bottle that perfectly matches your mood or outfit will motivate you to drink up.

Related: Find the best water bottle for you.

2. Add a splash of juice

A glass of 100 percent fruit juice can be sky-high in sugar, sure—but a splash can easily sweeten water naturally, says Keri Gans, R.D., author of The Small Change Diet.

Your go-to recipe: Mix a quarter cup of your favorite citrus juice (think: orange, grapefruit, or unsweetened lemonade), and add three-fourths cup of water. Voilà! You’ll get a nutritional boost, too, says Gans: “The citrus provides your body with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, which may help to strengthen your immune system.”

3. …Better yet: Infuse the fruit itself

Not a fruit juice fan? No biggie. Stick with the fruit itself. Add fresh slices of lemon, lime, cucumber, orange, strawberry, or watermelon to a jug of water and refrigerate, suggests Gans.

If you want, throw in an herb like mint, which (added bonus!) works to soothe your stomach in the case of indigestion, she notes. Pro tip: Pick up a decadent glass dispenser to showcase your infusions. Who doesn’t want to sip water when your beverage is worthy of a Pinterest board?

4. Get creative with cubes

Fresh fruits and vegetable.Upgrade your glass by making it tasty, nutritious, and good-looking. How so? Fancy ice cubes!

To create your next-level cubes, start with pairing fruits and herbs like cucumbers and basil, lime and mint, or lemon and honey. Chop your ingredients into very small pieces, sprinkle them into your ice cube compartments, and fill with water. When chilled, serve with a glass of water or seltzer (while looking at just how awesome your creation turned out!).

For a healthy-gut boost, mix with Ultimate Flora Probiotic Fizzy Drink Mix in Raspberry Lemonade.

Related: Adaptogens 101: These Herbs Are Trending For A Reason

5. Add a healthy mix-in

You can’t go wrong with a drink that  packs a nutritional punch and is bursting with flavor. Add an immune-boosting Vitamin C pack, or a protein (like Clean Protein – Unicorn Milk, especially within 30 minutes of your workout) to your water to reap extra benefits. Or, go for BodyTech’s Aminos, which are designed to help your body recover post-workout. Need a dose of energy? Garden of Life’s Organic Plant-Based Energy + Focus is a great-tasting (and totally clean) way to help get your body and mind into gear.

6. Go ginger

Tea in white cup with ginger, lemon, cinnamon and honeyFile this one under ‘who knew?’: “A little amount of ginger can make a simple glass of water full of flavor,” says Gans. To boot, it comes with a whole host of health benefits.

According to Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, ginger offers up antioxidants to support the immune system, while it also promotes digestive health. To get in on those benefits, cut a two-inch slab of ginger and add to your water. For a warmer concoction, add a bit of warm water, a slice of lemon, and a spoonful of raw honey to the ginger-y mix.

7. Add some bubbles

Water haters might want to consider a machine like a SodaStream, which can covert a bottle of plain ol’ H20 to bubbles in seconds. While seltzer water (even unflavored) is a bit more acidic than regular water, most of us won’t see any teeth issues from sipping the sudsy stuff. And if you pop a couple strawberries, cucumbers, or lemon slices into the mix, you’ll have an updated, delicious beverage.

Related: 5 Ways To Kick Excess Water Weight

8. Don’t drink, eat!

The beauty of hydration is that you don’t have to always be drinking to achieve it. According to Nutrition Review, plenty of fruits and vegetables (think: cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach, pickles, and cooked squash) are found to be made up of 90 to 99 percent water.

You generally need about 64 ounces (or 1900 milliliters) of agua per day, so if you’re not interested in drinking it all, consider the water content of these fruits and veggies: A medium cucumber offers about 194 ml, a slice of watermelon contains about 147 ml, and a medium tomato offers about 119 ml. Since these are pretty widely available foods, it’s easy to get a lot of your water you need from the foods you’re probably already eating.

In the end, you’ll need to nosh on about two slices of watermelon or a medium-sized cucumber and a tomato (which is probably already in your salad!) to get a little more than eight ounces (or one glass) of water.

How To Get A Full Workout Using Just Your Own Bodyweight

Every gym in America has something in common—namely, they’re stocked with all sorts of equipment. But while dumbbells, weight machines, and treadmills definitely have a place in a solid exercise routine, Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., a San Diego-based personal trainer, says they’re not the only way to torch the calories.

It is possible, he says, to get a great workout from just your own bodyweight (think: push-ups, planks, squats, or burpees). That’s partly because you can train multiples muscles at the same time, instead of using a machine that limits the force to one specific joint or particular muscle, he says: “Bodyweight training can engage all of the muscles around a particular joint or section of muscle.”

Related: 15 Moves Your Booty Will Thank You For Doing

Using a number of muscles at the same time also helps improve overall strength and fitness levels, McCall explains. Consider a push-up instead of a barbell chest press. “Push-ups will use core stabilizers [which are around the lumbar spine], helping improve core strength and giving the appearance of a flatter tummy,” he says. “Lying on a bench—where the body is supported by the bench—the only muscles working are the chest and shoulders. These muscles can become stronger, but the core won’t be used at the same rate.”

Another point for using your own bodyweight: “Muscles become stronger in the ranges-of-motion that they’re used to,” says McCall. That means that, sure, they’ll become strong on the specific machines—but this strength may not transfer to normal everyday activities or sport-specific activities, he says.

Why’s that? You can be really strong on a leg press, but your back is supported by the machine. But when you go to lift that 50-pound bag of dog food, your back and legs may not work efficiently together, McCall explains.

Related: 5 Moves That Torch Major Calories

Of course, the effectiveness of bodyweight exercises depends on what your goals are. “If the goal is to develop muscle tone, lose weight, and improve fitness level—most definitely, bodyweight training can be effective,” McCall says. “However, if the goal is to significantly increase muscle mass or achieve a ‘shredded’ appearance, then strength training with weights will be preferable to bodyweight training.”

Looking for something quick? Next time you’re dreading the gym, skip it altogether and complete a circuit of these three do-anywhere moves (one does require a bar) from McCall instead.

Related: 15 Bodyweight Exercises That Show Major Results

1. Split Leg Squat

Start with one foot on the ground and the other foot behind you elevated on a bench or jump box. Squat by flexing knee and hip of front leg until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Return to original standing position by extending hip and knee of forward leg and repeat.

“This exercise puts all of the strength into one leg—it can help strengthen the specific leg being used. Because you’re balancing on one leg, you’re also using core stabilizers and increasing activation of the nervous system to help recruit other muscles to limit unnecessary or unwanted movements.” Do 10 to 12 squats on each leg, rest for 45 to 60 seconds. Repeat for two to four sets.

Related: Shop training accessories you need to get active.

2. Chin-Up

Grip bar with a palms-up grip. Pull chest to bar, bring chin above bar, moving up as fast as possible, and down slowly. “You can use a power band [a large rubber band] to help support your bodyweight,” McCall says. Do as many reps as possible to failure, rest for 60 to 90 seconds. Repeat for two to four sets.

3. Step-Through

Start in tabletop position on hands and toes with hips and shoulders at same height. Lift right arm up as you kick left leg across body. Press left hand into ground for support while extending left leg as far as possible. Alternate legs for eight to 12 reps, rest 60 seconds. Repeat for two to four sets.

Could You Have Adrenal Fatigue?

You’re tired, achy, stressed, and you can’t seem to get a good night’s rest. So what gives? A quick search on Dr. Google provides a seemingly common diagnosis: adrenal fatigue.

But here’s where we remind you that the Internet is not a doctor. Because guess what? Adrenal fatigue might not even be a real thing. Yup.

The term adrenal fatigue was coined by James Wilson, Ph.D., a naturopathic doctor, in his 1998 book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome and is said to classify symptoms related to under-performing adrenal glands.

Quick anatomy lesson: The adrenal glands are very tiny glands located just above the kidneys. You have two adrenal glands, a right and a left.

Each gland has two specialized layers: an outer layer (the cortex) and an inner layer (the medulla). For tiny glands, they pack quite the punch. “The glands make several hormones that are released directly into the blood stream and are essential for life,” says Christopher Palmeiro, D.O., the chairman of endocrinology at HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley and the founder of Doctablet, an online resource that helps people better understand medical conditions.

The cortex makes three classes of hormones—mineralocorticoids (like aldosterone, which helps regulate blood pressure as well as sodium and potassium levels), glucocorticoids (like cortisol, the stress hormone), and androgens (or sex hormones).

Related: 8 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Tired All The Time

Cortisol is a really important one, Palmeiro notes, as it helps your body respond to stress, fight infections, and regulate your blood sugar levels and body temperature.

And the medulla? It’s responsible for making adrenaline. “This specialized inner layer of the adrenal gland is considered to be a part of the body’s nervous system, helping the body respond to stress,” says Palmeiro.

So yeah, you want your adrenal glands to perform well. The thing is, while it can be frustrating to experience symptoms like sleep problems, cravings, tiredness and fatigue, digestive issues, and body or muscle aches, adrenal fatigue isn’t considered to be a ‘real’ diagnosis, according to Palmeiro

“The idea that long-term emotional or physical stress overburdens the adrenal gland—causing an adrenal gland burn-out—has not been substantiated,” says Palmeiro. “There has been no convincing research on the topic.”

Not to mention, such nonspecific symptoms can point to other health conditions and lifestyle issues, such as depression or anxiety, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a poor diet or a lack of exercise, and more.

Palmeiro also points out that there is an important difference between adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency. The latter is a rare medical condition that crops up when your adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, he says.

Only about 1 in 100,000 people in the U.S. suffer from it, according to the National Organization for Rare Diseases, and it usually stems from damage to the glands themselves or a problem with the brain’s pituitary gland, which tells the adrenals to create cortisol.

Related: Boost your energy levels by shopping our vitamins and supplements

Adrenal insufficiency (also called Addison’s disease) can be confirmed through a blood test—and it’s worth treating. “Patients with low levels of cortisol may experience darkening of the skin, tiredness, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, muscle pains, and salt cravings,” says Palmeiro. “In extreme circumstances adrenal crises can occur and lead to collapse and death.”

The condition is treated with medications that supply doses of the hormones you may need.

And speaking of medication, that’s actually the most common cause of true adrenal dysfunction, says Palmiero. Steroids like prednisone—used for inflammatory conditions—can suppress your body’s own ability to make cortisol if they’re used too much over time. If you need to be prescribed steroids, make sure they’re prescribed sparingly and tapered appropriately, advises Palmiero.

The bottom line? If you’re suffering from symptoms like fatigue, GI distress, and trouble sleeping, it’s best to touch base with your IRL doctor to ID the root of the problem. Google can only do so much.

What Makes Antioxidants So Good For You, Anyway?

You probably hear the word ‘antioxidant’ thrown about quite a bit. They’re found in a bunch of your favorite fruits and veggies, and even in some beauty products like face creams. But what do they do, exactly, and should you load up on them?

Antioxidants have an important job: They neutralize oxidants (better known as free radicals).

This is key because free radicals may cause harm to the cardiovascular system or speed up the aging process. Free radicals come from various everyday sources, like booze, smoking, excess exposure to sunlight, radiation, or pollution.

Antioxidants & Free Radicals

Not so quick, though. We do still need small doses of free radicals: “Oxidants can be destructive in large amounts but have vitally important roles in our body in smaller amounts and during specific times,” says Demmig-Adams. “Balance is key.”

While antioxidant deficiency leaves too many free radicals to roam free in our body, excessive antioxidant intake (especially through high-dose supplements) may remove too many free radicals from your body. That’s because our immune systems create oxidants to kill disease-inducing bacteria, viruses, and other invaders, Demmig-Adams explains.

Related: 5 Foods That Are Packed With Probiotics

Diane L. McKay, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, says that fighting free radicals isn’t the antioxidant’s sole claim to fame. They also trigger our body’s own antioxidant defense network, she says, which helps to boost our immune functions.

While everyone needs antioxidants, if you live in a polluted area or are a smoker, they prove especially important. Also, the aging process (sorry, that affects all of us, no matter where we live) involves the production of an increased amount of free radicals, which can lead to the death of cells, notes Demmig-Adams.

Where Do Antioxidants Like To Hang Out?

Think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes. “Antioxidants are best acquired with a whole-food-based diet,” says Demmig-Adams.

Dietary antioxidants, McKay says, come mostly from the phytochemicals (compounds found in plants) in plant-based foods or in vitamins C, E, and beta carotene (a version of vitamin A).

For vitamin C (which smokers will need more of), seek out fresh fruit (like oranges, kiwi, or strawberries) and green leaves (like kale). You’ll find vitamin E in foods like nuts and fatty fish and antioxidant minerals (zinc and selenium) in meat, salmon, and Brazil nuts.

Related: Can Green Tea Really Help You Lose Weight?

Good news for the morning sippers among us: Green teas and coffee can also supply a healthy dose of antioxidants, says McKay.

If you like to work up a sweat, you’re in luck. “Regular moderate exercise—and the moderate amounts of free radicals produced in the process—triggers a subgroup of antioxidants the human body is able to manufacture itself [like glutathione] and helps reset the proper balance of oxidants and antioxidants,” says Demmig-Adams.

Why Do Some People Sweat More Than Others?

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with sweat: We leave a grueling spin class soaked and happy, but dread the thought of stress-sweat pit stains before a big meeting or a date.

Turns out, the human body sweats for a whole slew of reasons—and some of us simply wind up soggier than others (no matter where we go, what we do, or how hot or cold it is outside).

Here, everything you need to know about sweat, and how to stop the flood gates if it seems you’re drenched all the dang time.

First, The Basics

The two main culprits of sweat are heat and emotional stress. Both trigger the release of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that signal our sweat glands to secrete sweat. “The body sweats from individual glands located all over the body,” says dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, M.D. “The glands are more concentrated in some areas, like your underarms and forehead, for example.” (Well that explains a lot.)

If we didn’t sweat, we’d overheat. “The body sweats as a way to thermoregulate itself,” says Dr. Mariwalla. When the body senses heat, it produces sweat to help control its internal temperature.

When we work out, for example, our blood vessels dilate, increasing circulation and helping the ‘heat’ to dissipate through the surface area of the skin in the form of sweat, Mariwalla says. Once the sweat hits your skin, the fluid evaporates, cooling you down.

But here’s the thing: “Not all sweat is intended to cool down the body,” says Lauren Eckert Ploch, M.D., dermatologist at Georgia Dermatology and Skin Cancer. You know it as the ever-dreaded stress sweat. “Our brain has many ways of notifying our bodies of potentially stressful or dangerous situations,” she says. Sweat may be one of them. No wonder your pits suddenly feel wet as you walk into a job interview (or your in-laws’ house).

Feel Like You Sweat A Lot?

Some of us tend to walk out of a workout a little stickier than others, but what causes this unjust extra sweating?

How much you sweat (and how you respond to hot temps for that matter) can be genetic. But often, a slew of factors are at play. Everything from the type of exercise you’re doing (HIIT versus, say, yoga) to the outside temperature to how many sweat glands you have can play a role. We all have several million sweat glands, but the exact number varies from person to person, according to research out of The Rockefeller University.

Your fitness level may also play a role. A study published in PLOS One found that regular runners started sweating more quickly and sweat more than their sedentary counterparts, suggesting that increased sweating may sometimes be an indication of the body’s adapted ability to keep cool.

Additional factors, like health conditions or certain meds, may also have an effect. Neurological disorders or medications that affect our nervous systems can cause minor abnormalities in how neurotransmitters are secreted, and impact how much we sweat, Ploch says. A paper published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy identified excess sweating as a side effect of multiple types of antidepressant medications, including Wellbutrin, Zyban, and Effexor.

Meanwhile, some neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, or other health issues, like diabetes, can also contribute to increased sweating, Ploch says.

What You Can Do To Dry Off

The first step to warding off excessive sweat is to keep your skin cool and dry, says Ploch. “Use an antiperspirant, not just a deodorant,” says Mariwalla. “Antiperspirants create a salt that then plugs the sweat ducts and decreases sweating, while deodorants just mask the odor.”

Heavy sweaters may even want to consider a product with a higher concentration of antiperspirant’s active ingredient, aluminum chloride, she says. Look for a product labeled with ‘extra strength’ or ‘clinical strength.’

Related: Find personal care products to keep you feeling fresh and clean.

If a higher-strength product isn’t doing the trick, touch base with your dermatologist. “I often recommend a medication that helps inhibit the neurotransmitter that can increase sweating,” explains Ploch. An alternative treatment involves injecting neurotoxins into the heavy-sweating area to decrease sweating, she adds.

However, if you think your pit stains are related to anxiety or stress, your first step should be to treat those issues directly, she says.

Related: 12 Natural Ways To Kick Your Stress To The Curb

Should You Worry About Your Sweat?

Too little sweat (like not even a single droplet after exercise) can be problematic if you become overheated, says Mariwalla. Your body may not be able to properly cool itself down when needed, explains Ploch. Talk to your doctor about any potential genetic issues at play, or any medications that may be impacting your ability to sweat.

If you find yourself randomly sweating without exerting yourself at least once a week, it may be a sign of hyperhidrosis (excess sweating), according to the American Academy of Dermatology. “Hyperhidrosis often affects quality of life, friendships, work life, and more,” says Ploch. If that sounds like you, make an appointment with your doc.

Related: 10 Ways You’re Wrecking Your Skin Without Even Realizing It

The Many Benefits Of Ashwagandha

In the age of superfoods, it seems there are constantly new names and ingredients for the health conscious to be in the know about. The latest craze, ashwagandha, isn’t a fad at all, but rather an ancient Ayurvedic medicinal herb that’s been around for years.

Ashwagand-whaaa?

Not to worry—we touched base with Peter K. Raisanen, N.D., a naturopathic physician to break down what’s essential  about this plant and how it could benefit your day-to-day.

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania Somnifera, is an herb that comes from the Solanaceae (a.k.a. nightshade) family, explains Raisanen.

In Ayurvedic medicine—a form of ancient Indian medicine that’s all about natural healing—ashwagandha is an all-star. The highly-revered herb has been used for millennia, says Raisanen.

“The root is the portion of the herb used for the medicinal action,” Raisanen says. It can come in the form of bulk herb (the full physical root), tincture of root (alcohol), ground root in tea, or ground root in a capsule form, he explains.

Related: Peruse a large selection of ashwagandha capsules and powders.

Ashwagandha’s Traditional Uses

In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is known as an adaptogen, which is a type of plant extract believed to promote a healthy stress response in the body. “They work through a variety of body systems, especially the endocrine, immune, and central nervous systems,” says Raisanen.

Traditionally, the herb has been used in response to stress and anxiety. According to Raisanen, ashwagandha helps to boost the nervous system and is often beneficial for those dealing with excess or chronic stress.

A study published in The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that when people under chronic stress supplemented with 300 milligrams of ashwagandha (in capsule form) a day for 60 days, they experienced a decrease in levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reported improved feelings of well-being.

Related: Choose from a variety of supplements to support stress management.

Plus, ashwagandha may promote strength gains from exercise. One study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that men who supplemented with 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice a day while following an eight-week strength training program saw greater increases in muscle strength compared to those who didn’t take the herb.

What To Know Before Supplementing

Since ashwagandha is an herb, there’s no single recommended dosage. Raisanen recommends either three to six grams daily via one cup of tea one to three times a day, one to three teaspoons of tincture in water, or one gram via a capsule.

According to Raisanen, ashwagandha may affect autoimmune diseases and interfere with immunosuppressive drugs, and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center warns pregnant women and those taking sedatives against supplementing. It’s best to touch base with your doctor to find out the right dosing for you before you start supplementing.

Should You Be Taking A Multivitamin?

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have always asserted that our nutritional needs should be met mainly via the foods we eat. The latest revision of the guidelines, though, say that supplements may be useful for providing nutrients you may not be getting enough of.

“As a nation, we are overfed and undernourished,” says Marci Clow, R.D.N., a dietitian at Rainbow Light, maker of food-based multivitamins and supplements. In a perfect world, our diets would be made up of nutrient-dense whole foods (fruits and vegetables, whole-grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats). But that’s just not the case: “Statistics show that about three-fourths of the population has an eating pattern that is low in vegetables, fruits, dairy and healthy sources of fat,” says Clow.

That said, it seems there’s a constant debate over whether or not we all need a daily multivitamin. While a daily multivitamin isn’t a magic bullet, there are plenty of situations in which we could all benefit from one.

If You Cut Out a Food Group

“Anyone who cuts out particular food groups or goes on a diet that cuts out certain foods—such as the Paleo Diet—may benefit from a multivitamin,” says sports dietitian Marie Spano, R.D., C.S.C.S. With Paleo, you might miss out on calcium and vitamin D, specifically, she explains. (Calcium is most commonly found in dairy, while vitamin D is often added to milk and cereal products—all no-no’s for Paleo.)

Another example: If you cut back on red meat, you may miss out on iron and vitamin B12, says Spano. (Iron helps transport oxygen throughout our bodies, while vitamin B12 supports energy production, according to the National Institutes of Health.) Many women in the U.S. are iron deficient, she adds—around 10 percent of white women and 20 percent of black and Hispanic women, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Related: Find the best multivitamin for your needs.

If You’re Pregnant

The surge of pregnancy hormones can cause nausea and lack of appetite—and adequate nutrient intake during pregnancy may become a challenge for many women, Clow says. “Consuming a varied diet should be the first and foremost way for providing nutrients during gestation; however, medical research shows that a prenatal multivitamin can play a critical role in supporting overall health for both mother and baby.”

While a regular multivitamin might be consumed to fill in dietary nutrient gaps, prenatal multivitamins are formulated to meet specific increased nutrient needs that accompany pregnancy, Clow explains. “Folic acid and iron are two of the most critical nutrients to fuel a healthy pregnancy—and are both recommended at nearly twice the level found in a standard multivitamin.”

If You Live in the North

In protecting yourself from the sun (hello, SPF) you might also be picking up a vitamin D deficiency, says Arielle Levitan, M.D., author of The Vitamin Solution and founder of Vous Vitamin. According to a study published in Nutrition Research, about 40 percent of the U.S. population could be deficient in the vitamin.

“Those with limited sun exposure, people living in northern latitudes, and people with darker skin tones should consider extra vitamin D,” says Clow.

If You’re a Big Exerciser

Research published in Nutrition Reviews suggests almost half of Americans do not get ample magnesium (which plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body) from their diets. Plus, magnesium is one of the minerals you lose when you sweat, says Levitan. That means fitness buffs who go hard and sweat hard, and endurance athletes who train for hours at a time, may be at greater risk for magnesium insufficiency.

As You Age

As we get older, we’re less able to absorb certain nutrients, says Clow. For example, B12 requires a substance called ‘intrinsic factor’ which is secreted by stomach cells in order to be absorbed. Our production of this substance decreases as we age, she says. According to the National Institute on Aging, most people start have trouble absorbing B12 around age 50.

Not to mention, conditions and circumstances often related to aging—like use of prescription medications, onset of degenerative diseases, and increased isolation—can also put the elderly at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, says Clow.

But Remember…

As a rule of thumb, touch base with your doc before taking a multivitamin. A healthcare professional can make sure that medicines or supplements you already take won’t interfere with a daily multi, says Clow. (Common heartburn and diabetes medications, for example, can interfere with the absorption of magnesium and vitamins B12 and D, Levitan says.) And since everyone’s nutritional needs are different, consult with a doc or nutritionist for more info about which supplement may be best for you.

Why Is Your Hair Not Growing As Fast As Everyone Else’s?

Ever wonder why certain people are blessed with thick, healthy locks and others just can’t get their flimsy strands to grow? A whole slew of factors contribute to the state of your mane.

To figure out why someone is losing hair, docs look into four main factors, says Lauren Eckert Ploch, M.D., dermatologist at Georgia Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center. And those same factors also play a role in hair growth, she says.

Read on to learn what determines whether a person’s hair grows at sloth or Rapunzel-level pace.

Genetics

By and large, how fast your hair grows has a lot to do with genes. “Hair cycles through three stages: the active, resting, and degenerative phases,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

The number of hair follicles we have doesn’t change, but those follicles are constantly producing new hairs throughout our lifetimes, explains a paper published in the Journal of Cell Science. In the growth (or ‘anagen’) phase, your follicles produce a completely new hair, from root to tip, which begins to grow beneath the skin surface and is then pushed out. Then, the follicle shifts to the regression (or ‘catagen’) phase, in which the bottom of the hair shaft seals off and the hair follicle recedes. In the rest (or ‘telogen’) phase, the hair follicle is completely dormant, until it shifts back to the growth phase, shedding the old hair and beginning the process all over again.

Your anagen phase determines your mane’s ability to grow, Zeichner says. The longer your anagen phase lasts, the more time your hair spends growing and longer it becomes. The length of your anagen phase is determined by—you guessed it—your genes.

A study published in PLOS Genetics identified a gene called LHX2, which regulates stem cell populations and contributes to our generation or organs and tissues, as a major player in hair formation.

Hence why dermatologists usually ask patients complaining of thin hair if stringy strands run in the family. You’re more likely to deal with thinning hair if someone else in the family did, says Zeichner. That same connection often exists for quick-growing locks, too, he says.

Related: Show your mane some love with these reliable hair-care products.

Your Diet

“Poor nutrition doesn’t provide the building blocks for healthy hair growth and leaves the scalp lacking in nutrients it needs for optimal functioning,” explains Zeichner.

So what do you need to fill up on? A healthy and diverse diet rich in protein (meats and legumes), omega-3 fatty acids (olive oil and healthy fats like avocados), vitamin D (oily fish or supplements), vitamin C (citrus fruits and bell peppers), iron (green, leafy vegetables), and zinc (oysters, beef, or sesame seeds) is your best bet for promoting healthy hair, says Ploch. “Copper, vitamin A, and vitamin E—plentiful in fresh fruits and vegetables—are also important for scalp and hair health,” she says.

While biotin, or vitamin B7, is often touted as essential for making the hair grow faster, it’s theoretically more likely to make hair stronger versus making it grow faster, Ploch notes. “Biotin deficiency leads to hair loss and brittle hair, so biotin does play a role in growing strong, healthy hair,” she says. “However, whether it truly impacts how fast our hair grows is not fully scientifically proven.”

Protein intake has a lot to do with hair growth, too, says Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., a dermatologist based in West Islip, NY. Hair is mostly made up of protein, which means fueling up on the nutrient is important for hair structure and overall health. You can use this calculator from the USDA to determine your daily minimum protein requirements.

Related: Help boost your protein intake with a supplement.

An Underlying Medical Issue

“Several systems in the body contribute to the process [of hair growth],” says Ploch. For instance, your thyroid hormones can play a big role. “Low thyroid function is often associated with thinning hair,” Zeichner says. “Thyroid hormones regulate a healthy metabolism, so thinning hair may occur when its cells are not adequately stimulated for proper functioning.”

Autoimmune diseases like lupus can also contribute to deteriorating hair health. In such conditions, your immune system—which typically attacks microorganisms that threaten your health—attacks your own healthy cells. The resulting inflammation can be associated with everything from thinning hair, joint aches, rashes, belly pains, and sensitivity to the sun, Zeichner says.

Even stress and a lack of sleep can play a role in how well your hair grows. Case in point: “After a particularly traumatic event like an illness, hospitalization, or childbirth, hair can fall out in what’s called telogen effluvium,” says Mariwalla. As previously mentioned, ‘telogen’ refers the resting stage of the hair growth cycle, and this type of hair loss occurs when stress prematurely shifts hairs into the resting stage, causing them to fall out, Mariwalla says. These hairs do eventually grow back after stress levels dial down.

The State Of Your Scalp

Suffering from a skin condition on your scalp? Issues like severe dandruff or psoriasis may be to blame for your lack of luscious locks, says Zeichner. Dandruff is best treated with antidandruff shampoos, which reduce yeast levels on the skin, he says. If you have psoriasis, touch base with your dermatologist about your best course of action.

Which Beauty Supplement Is Right For You—Collagen Or Biotin?

In the world of beauty supplements, collagen and biotin are popular players. It makes sense: The protein and vitamin, respectively, can both play key roles in keeping skin, hair, and nails in tip-top shape. While they have different jobs in your body, “collagen and biotin work together synergistically, along with many other nutrients,” says integrative dietitian Robin Foroutan, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Does one—or both—of these nutrients deserve a place in your supplement stack? We asked dermatologists and registered dietitians to give us the full breakdown on biotin and collagen, as well as who might benefit from each.

collagen-products

COLLAGEN

What It Is
“Collagen is an abundant protein found in bones, muscles, skin, and tendons that forms a scaffold to provide structure and strength,” explains Melissa Levin, M.D., clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine and dermatologist at Marmur Medical in New York. Think of it as a support network in the dermis — the skin layer that helps keep skin resilient and supple, she says. “Collagen is also really important for skin turnover — basically allowing for skin renewal and repair,” adds Foroutan.

How To Add It To Your Diet
Organic and pasture-raised bone broth is a great source of collagen, says Foroutan. It’s otherwise pretty tough to get from food in our modern diet.

“Some dermatologists believe that eating foods that are high in the building blocks of collagen, including amino acids like proline and lysine, and minerals like copper, can help improve your skin,” says Levin. Shellfish, nuts, and red and lean meats are all sources of copper; legumes and lean meats are good sources of lysine; and egg whites, meats, cheese, and soy all contain proline.

Related: Visit our Hair, Skin, and Nails center for supplements, topical products, and more.

Certain nutrients — like vitamin A (found in sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach) and vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and Brussels sprouts) — are thought to support collagen formation and are equally important in your diet, says Levin.

Should You Supplement?
“As we age, we produce less collagen, which results loss of elasticity and volume, and the onset of wrinkles,” says Levin. Preliminary studies show the promise of taking bioactive collagen peptides, though more studies are needed, she says. One study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology found that 2.5 grams of bioactive collagen peptide daily reduced the appearance in wrinkles around the eyes in women after eight weeks.

The women in the study were between the ages of 45 and 65, suggesting a collagen supplement may be worth considering as you approach middle age.

Just keep in mind, says Levin, that we need further studies to confirm whether collagen supplements are incorporated to form new collagen or just support existing structures.

Many collagen supplements are available in capsule or chewable form, and are recently even being sold in powder form.

If you’re concerned about wrinkles and keeping the structure of your skin strong, collagen may be your MVP nutrient—especially as you age.

biotin-projects

BIOTIN

What It Is
Also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, biotin is a B vitamin important in fatty acid metabolism and cell growth, says Levin. “It’s become a ‘hot’ vitamin for healthy hair and nails after a study found it improved nail brittleness,” she explains.

The study, published in Cutis, found that 63 percent of participants with brittle nails saw improvement in nail plate thickness after six months of biotin supplementation.

How To Add It To Your Diet
According to Foroutan, biotin is found in egg yolks, almonds, and sweet potato.

Should You Supplement?
While Levin doesn’t outwardly suggest biotin supplements for nail or hair problems, she doesn’t discourage them. Even though a body of data is lacking, some patients say they do see an improvement in their health and hair when taking biotin, she says.

While biotin deficiency is usually characterized by brittle hair and nails, we need more research to identify the proper dose for someone with healthy hair and nails, says Levin. Most docs simply suggest 2.5mg daily, she adds.

Related: Wild Berry biotin chewables? Don’t mind if we do.

One caveat to keep in mind: Though there are no studies that demonstrate harm in taking biotin, Levin has seen excess biotin supplementation cause acne flare-ups in patients.

“Both biotin and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) are absorbed through the same intestinal receptors,” she explains. “If someone takes an excess amount of biotin, the biotin can saturate these receptors and inhibit your B5 absorption. Since B5 plays a role in skin barrier function, hindered absorption may spur worsening acne.

Dealing with tons of hair breakage and weak nails? That’s your signal to talk to your doc about biotin.

If you want to show your skin, hair, and nails some extra TLC, it’s safe to take both collagen and biotin, says Levin, so don’t worry about pulling double duty.

4 Possible Reasons Why You’re Still Breaking Out As An Adult

There are some elements of our adolescent awkwardness—middle-school dances, braces, curfews—that we’re able to leave in the past, thankfully. For many people, zits aren’t one of them.

“Adult acne, which is known as post-adolescent acne, is much more common than most people are aware of,” says Melissa K. Levin, M.D., the director of clinical research at Marmur Medical in New York. “In fact, nearly 50 percent of patients in their 20s and up to 25 percent of patients in their 40s experience acne outbreaks.”

Though adult acne isn’t fully understood by the experts, there are a few factors that seem to play a role.

1. Your Hormones Are Out Of Whack

Certain hormones, like testosterone, trigger an increase in oil production, which can promote acne, says Levin. A hormonal surge could be the result of your period, menopause, starting or stopping birth control, eating hormone-enhanced foods like non-organic meat and dairy, or even stress, she explains.

Nearly 50 percent of patients in their 20s and up to 25 percent of patients in their 40s experience acne outbreaks.

“Androgens (a group of hormones that play a role in male traits and reproduction, including testosterone), for example, can spike because of stress, and stimulate oil glands and hair follicles in the skin,” explains Marie Jhin, M.D., a San Francisco-based dermatologist.

If stress has taken control of your life—and perhaps your face, too—meditation, exercise, or therapy might help you reclaim your zen. Also, ladies: Ask your derm about a drug called Spironolactone. “It’s probably my favorite go-to medication for female adult acne,” says Levin. Originally formulated to treat high blood pressure, Spironolactone is also an androgen-blocker, which means it attacks the chemicals that spark hormonal acne, she adds.

2. You’re All Clogged Up

Heavy skincare products, like lotions and makeups and even sweat, can create a barrier between your skin and the air,clogging pores and potentially causing acne flare-ups, says Jhin. Levin suggests only using products that say ‘non-comedogenic’, ‘non-acnegenic’, ‘oil-free’, or ‘won’t clog pores.’

Related: Pick And Choose From Fantastic Facial-Care Products 

Basic hygiene works wonders, too. “Make sure sweat is off your face immediately after the gym and makeup is off your face at the end of the work day,” says Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., a dermatologist in West Islip, New York.

3. You’re Over-Scrubbing

We hate to break it to you, but trying to wash acne away won’t actually work—and it might just make it a lot worse. “Over-cleansing, using 10 different products, or exfoliating every single day can leave you with dry, irritated skin,” says Levin. Your skin normally has a protective lipid layer that keeps out potential irritants and maintains skin cell turnover, she explains. Without this layer your skin is vulnerable to irritants and slow to recover. Not to mention, all those dry skin cells can clog your pores and make breakouts even worse, Levin adds.

The fix: Simplify your skin-care routine. Consider a gentle hydrating cleanser, a topical medication (prescribed by your derm, if necessary), a moisturizer, and sunscreen your daily staples, suggests Levin.

Make sure sweat is off your face immediately after the gym.

From there, add one additional product to your routine at a time—so long as your skin isn’t irritated. Look for products with alpha hydroxyl acids (chemical exfoliators that de-clog pores), antioxidants (which neutralize molecules called free radicals that damage your cells), and vitamin C (a particularly potent antioxidant frequently used in dermatology), Levin says.

4. You’re Eating Too Much Sugar

Zits won’t quit? Hands off the white bread! “Data supports the idea that a diet packed with foods that are high on the glycemic index (all of your sugary foods, like cakes, white bread, and so on) can increase your risk of acne, says Levin.

Though the data currently suggests a weak connection, there’s a possibility that dairy may also wreak havoc on your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, three recent studies have found positive associations between milk consumption (skim, in particular) and adolescent acne. “We suspect that the hormones and growth factors present in milk have a role in the acne connection,” suggests Levin.

To encourage healthy skin from the inside out, make sure you load up on all of the good stuff. “A healthy diet promotes healthy skin,” says Levin. “Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein get broken down into vitamins, minerals, and amino acids—like collagen and elastin—that your body uses to build and support skin structure and function.”